Was DSCOVR Killed By Office Politics?

NASA’s resistance to launching the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is certainly puzzling. They spent $100 million on the spacecraft. It’s finished. Two other countries and another US government agency have offered to launch it at no cost to NASA. Yet it still remains in a box.

Maybe NASA is simply cash-strapped because they have been forced to spend billions on pet political projects like the International Space Station or Bush’s manned mission to Mars.

Or maybe the Whitehouse and their oil industry backers didn’t want the climate “debate” resolved just yet.

But perhaps the real reason that DSCOVR remains Earth-bound is something much more mundane than that: office politics.

NASA, like any large institution, has some serious inertia around changing the way things are done. The important challenge of calculating the energy budget of the planet is a good example.

After spending literally billions of dollars on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, NASA scientists still cannot resolve a significant discrepancy in the “reflected flux” of our planet.

Simply put, the amount of energy retained by Earth is the amount of energy received from the Sun, minus the amount radiated back into space in the infrared spectrum.

The first factor – the amount received from Sun - is the total energy hitting the Earth minus the amount reflected back by clouds, ice and other shiny surfaces. This measurement of “shininess” is called albedo.

Without knowing the ever-changing albedo, it is impossible to have a precise idea of how much the planet is warming up, or what is causing it. It is like trying to figure out how many people have come into a nightclub with out counting them at the door.

Therein lies the internal embarrassment for NASA. Scientists are supposed to have the answers – especially around hot button issues like climate change. Yet a paper published last year in the prestigious journal Nature demonstrated that NASA still had a glaring discrepancy in the planet’s energy balance of 4-6 watts per square metre – that is roughly two to three times the effect of atmospheric CO2.

The Low Earth Orbit researchers have had a pretty good kick at the can but they still can’t make the numbers add up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Such “weird” phenomena are often the very things that precede scientific breakthroughs.

That’s why DSCOVR is so important. It would be observing our planet at the same time as existing LEO satellites – but from a distance of 1.5 million kilomteres away. This new perspective might help resolve this interesting problem.

DSCOVR would also compliment and help calibrate existing satellite measurements. Many of these LEO satellites cost billions and have a limited lifespan. Some of satellites in A-Train array may be lost by 2009 – adding to the urgency of getting DSCOVR launched so it can do coincident measurements of the Earth before these expensive satellites fall from the sky.

More than that, DSCOVR would be able to simultaneously monitor the energy output of the Sun while measuring temperature changes on Earth. This would almost immediately lay to rest the argument often trotted out by climate change deniers that any warming of the planet is due to fluctuations in the Sun.

Here’s the rub: if DSCOVR ever made it to L1 and did a better job at measuring the temperature of our planet, it might threaten the funding or reputations of well-established scientists that have hitched their academic wagon to low Earth orbit observations.

Could it be that the satellite that could save the world remains Earth-bound due to nothing more than academic jealously?

As they say, “never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”

This piece was published on Desmog Blog


NASA Stonewalls US Agency that Wants to Launch DSCOVR

It has now been several months since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) formally requested that NASA transfer to them all DSVOVR assets - including of course the spacecraft itself.

The response from NASA? Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

Incredibly, NASA has so far completely ignored colleagues from another US government agency that want to make use of a $100 million spacecraft that NASA themselves stated last year they have no intention of launching.

For those new to this investigative series, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is a fully completed spacecraft, that if launched, would almost immediately lay to rest any remaining legitimate debate regarding the origins of global climate change.

Strangely, this critical piece of climate science hardware has instead been sitting in a box at the Goddard Space Center for the last seven years. Last year, NASA canceled the mission altogether, citing “competing priorities”.

It seems that NOAA is so frustrated with the lack of will on the part of NASA to launch DSCOVR that they have sourced private funding to launch and operate DSCOVR themselves.

Besides ending any remaining honest debate about the most bitterly opposed scientific theory since evolution, DSCOVR would also help predict solar storms, protecting satellites worth billions of dollars from solar flares.

The US Senate Committee on Appropriations should be asking the NASA brass some hard questions about why they have chosen to ignore a formal request from another government agency.

Perhaps it might also be a reasonable that, since NASA was given $100 million in taxpayers dollars for something they did not do, and now will not let others do, they should take a $100 million haircut in their next budget request.

Next week: the real reason DSCOVR is being held prisoner.


Did Bush’s Mars Plan Scuttle DSCOVR?

When the now-Nobel Laureate Al Gore proposed the DSCOVR mission way back in 1998, he was widely jeered by Republicans for interfering in the scientific business of NASA. “Gore-sat”, “Gore-cam”, and “the multi-million dollar screen saver” were all quips trotted out on the floor of the Senate and Congress in opposition to the mission.

DSCOVR was a victim of such partisan politics. Even though it is fully completed at a cost of $100 million, this unique spacecraft remains in a storage box in Maryland, rather than providing critical data on the progress of climate change.

NASA quietly cancelled DSCOVR last year, citing “competing priorities”. Perhaps the biggest of these was George Bush’s edict NASA in January 2004 to put a human on the surface of Mars.

Bush made the high-profile pronouncement at NASA headquarters as their entire staff watched by video. In an apparent effort to emulate JFK, he intoned that “human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures, or the most detailed measurements. We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves.”

Besides the fact that it is difficult to “touch” a Martian rock when you are wearing a space suit, there are two obvious questions: Where will the money come from to bankroll this massive intervention in NASA’s science program? And, is this really a worthwhile use of scarce NASA resources?

Alarmingly, the short-term money is coming directly at the expense of existing programs like the DSCOVR mission. Bush instructed NASA to pull $11 billion from their budget over five years to pay for his Mars brainstorm – almost 13% of their funding. The only additional money he promised was $1 billion over five years - everything else is the proverbial pound of flesh.

That is just for starters. The White House did not put an actual dollar value on how much this boondoggle would eventually cost – always a bad sign. What we do know is that the task of transporting humans 12,000 times as far as the Moon, though the searing radiation of empty space, and bringing them back alive is going to be pricey.

Some have estimated that Bush’s Mars announcement may cost over $1 trillion, making it the most expensive speech in history. For those of us unaccustomed to such astronomical sums of taxpayer largess, that is one thousand-billion dollars. In hundred dollar bills, it would weigh eleven thousand tons.

Supporters of the mission have derided these figures; instead saying this effort would cost a mere $229 billion. For the record, that would still pay for what the US government is spending annually on climate change research for the next 127 years.

Bear in mind that this radical surgery on NASA’s direction was apparently completed without any scientific peer review whatsoever. It instead came directly from the brain of the perhaps the most unpopular president in US history – and a man who has repeatedly scorned the scientific consensus around climate change.

As for the scientific merit of putting a human on Mars, the scientific community is less than enthused. The American Physical Society stated plainly in 2004 "shifting NASA priorities toward risky, expensive missions to the moon and Mars will mean neglecting the most promising space science efforts."

Many scientists instead feel that robotic probes are doing a good job of exploring Mars at a fraction of the cost, and are only going to get better with advancing technology. Besides the fact that they do not need food, water, air or sleep, robots also do not need to be brought 300 million miles back to Earth.

Lastly robots pose a much smaller risk of contaminating Mars with Earth-based life than astronauts. Because Mars may harbor indigenous life forms, all the probes sent to the Martian surface have to be carefully sterilized.

Humans on the other hand are repositories of billions of microorganisms in our digestive tract. If there was ever space suit failure on Mars, not only would the astronaut quickly perish, but the Red Planet would also be hopelessly contaminated with tenacious life from our world. In this way, sending humans to Mars may irrevocably damage our scientific understanding of the very place we are trying to explore.

The scientific community is very clear about the most urgent priority now facing the planet: climate change. Yet by diverting billions away from existing climate programs like DSCOVR, George Bush essentially decided that sending humans to Mars for an interplanetary photo-op is more important than tackling global warming.

How much more important? Assuming that it would cost only $229 billion to put a boot print on Mars, that is still over eleven million times as much money as it would cost to launch and operate DSCOVR – a mission described by Dr. Robert Park of the University of Maryland as “the most important thing we could be doing in space right now”.

There is little doubt at this point that George Bush is a fool. History will only elaborate on that conclusion. Yet beyond Iraq, the ballooning national debt and the loss of American soft power, perhaps his most shameful legacy will be his intransigent opposition to climate science.

As for Gore, there is a certain sweet vindication of being on the right side of history. Now all we have to do is spring his spacecraft from jail.

This was posted on Desmog Blog on October 22, 2007.


Whitehouse Stonewalls DSCOVR Information Request

Digging up information on the cancellation of the DSCOVR mission has been like pulling teeth. The dental work continued this week, this time with the Whitehouse.

Last month, I filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) to the Office of Administration in Washington DC, asking for copies of any records "relating to the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission, formerly known as Triana, from the period January 1, 2000 to the present."

I then received this strange response from Whitehouse Deputy General Counsel F. Andrew Turley, stating:

"Please be advised that the Office of the Administration, Executive Office of the President is not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Your letter therefore is returned without further action."

Strange. I sent my letter to the Freedom of Information Act Officer for the Office of the Administration. Why would they have one if they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act?

Also, have a look at this Whitehouse website:

It clearly states:

The Executive Office of the President (EOP) entities subject to the FOIA are:
Council on Environmental Quality
Office of Administration
Office of Management and Budget
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Office of Science and Technology Policy
United States Trade Representative

Then I received a call back from the Deputy General Counsel, saying that while this is confusing, the Office of the Administration is no longer subject to FOIA due to a "recent legal determination." I'm sure Dick Cheney is very happy about that. They still have a FOIA officer on staff, doing God knows what.

As more teeth come out, I will let you know.

This was posted on Desmog blog on October 18, 2007


DSCOVR Debacle Part 5 - How Much Is Monitoring Climate Change Worth?

Like any government body, NASA has to decide where is best to spend it’s finite resources. These decisions aren’t easy but they are essential to ensure that the funds entrusted by the taxpayer are allocated in a coherent and thoughtful way.

Looking through that lens, it is hard to imagine how NASA saw fit to cancel DSCOVR after it was built – ostensibly due to lack of resources – when they continue to shovel literally billions of dollars at two mega projects that arguably have no scientific merit whatsoever. I speak of the International Space Station (ISS) and the proposed manned mission to Mars.

Lets start with the ISS. Conceived as a joint effort by many countries to have permanent presence in space, it has become a boondoggle that is quite literally out of this world. By 2010, the ISS will have eaten up over $130 billion dollars. That cost itself is remarkable, but more remarkable still that the ISS has lost large parts of it planned science program.

Two major initiatives, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and the Centrifugal Accommodations Module were both cancelled due to funding cuts. Instead, The ISS has focused on more mundane topics such as space-induced kidney stones and the effect of cosmic rays on the human body.

A perennial justification of orbiting astronaut housing such as the ISS is that they can be used as laboratories for the growing of novel crystals and proteins in microgravity. Yet in 2000, the National Academies of Sciences reported that, "the enormous investment in protein crystal growth on the Shuttle and Mir has not led to a single unique scientific result."

The American Physical Society also recently reaffirmed its statement originally made in 1991 that “Scientific justification is lacking for a permanently manned space station in Earth orbit."

Undeterred, this month NASA will deliver a new module to the ISS - at a cost of $2 billion - making it as big as a five-bedroom house. Dr. Robert Park, a physicist from the University of Maryland and long time critic of the scientific utility of the ISS, commented wryly, “astronauts can now do nothing in twice as much space.”

Meanwhile, as climate change proceeds apace, DSCOVR continues to explore the inside of its storage box in Maryland.

According to NASA brass, the decision to cancel DSCOVR last year was due to “competing priorities”. Lets do the math.

To put the cost of one of the those competing priorities in perspective, the ISS at $130 billion is roughly 1,300 times what it cost to build DSCOVR, and 13,000 times larger than what it would cost to launch and operate the now-completed DSCOVR themselves – something that Dr. Park has stated is “the most important thing we could be doing in space right now”

In actuality, the cost to NASA of launching DSCOVR now is approaching zero since it appears that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found outside funding to take over the mission. Strangely, NASA as yet seems to feel that it is more cost effective not to hand DSCOVR over to another US government agency and instead keep it in storage at roughly $1 million per year.

Next posting: DSCOVR vs. putting a human on Mars.

This was published on Desmogblog.com on October 11, 2007.


DSCOVR Debacle Part 4 - why won't NASA give it to NOAA?

Here is the latest bizarre twist in the saga of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). To recap, NASA was given over $100 million in taxpayers money to build a spacecraft that would look at the energy budget of our planet from a unique perspective. Even though it is fully completed over five years ago, it is still sitting in a box at the Goddard Space Centre.

According to leading scientists in a recent paper in the esteemed journal Science, this spacecraft would dispel much existing uncertainty about the pace of climate change. Specifically, after spending literally billions of dollars in low-Earth orbit studies, there is a still a glaring discrepancy in our understanding of the planet’s energy balance of 4-6 watts per square metre – that is roughly two to three times the effect of atmospheric C02.

DSCOVR would help resolve that problem because it would not be observing our planet from low Earth orbit.- its instruments would gaze back at Earth from 1.5 million kilomteres away at a gravitational parking spot between the Earth and Sun, far beyond the orbit of the Moon. The data provided by DSCOVR would compliment measurements from conventional climate satellites and give us a much clearer idea of our changing climate.

The reasons why NASA decided to quietly cancel the mission early last year remain a mystery. So are the reasons why NASA refuses to disclose any internal documents relating to this decision, even under the Freedom of Information Act.

What we do know is that another government agency is interested in securing DSCOVR for the better prediction of space weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) apparently wants DSCOVR at L1 so it can provide better information of solar flares that are approaching Earth.

Literally billions of dollars of satellite hardware are at risk from high-energy solar flares that can destroy sensitive orbiting instruments. Besides providing critical climate data, DSCOVR would replace aging sun monitoring spacecraft already at L1. This would provide engineers about an hour of advance warning of approaching solar storms so that expensive satellites can be shut down before nasty space weather hits.

Here’s the rub. Even though NOAA has apparently secured alternate funding to bankroll the launch and maintenance of DSCOVR, NASA so far has not yet provided the spacecraft.

One might understand why NASA would be reluctant to give American space hardware to the Ukrainians or the French, both of which offered to launch DSCOVR themselves. But another federal US agency?

To recap: NASA built it. Stored it. Cancelled it, Refused to allow offer countries to launch it. Refused to release any information on why it was cancelled, and now they won’t let another US government agency have it either.

The story gets stranger by the week. Next week: Following the money.

This was published on DeSmog Blog on Sept 28th, 2007


DSCOVR Debacle Part 3

My entry into the DSCOVR mission intrigue happened last year when I pitched the idea to SEED magazine for a feature article on the project.

DSCOVR was quietly killed by NASA in January 2006 and it seemed awfully strange to me that a fully completed climate satellite costing $100 million would be mothballed after it had been built.

Stranger still was that virtually every scientist I interviewed as I researched this piece expressed something between guarded disappointment to full-blown outrage that what they considered crucial mission had been cancelled.

Project leader Dr. Francisco P. J. Valero, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, described the mission as “an urgent necessity”.

Dr. Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, was more blunt about the importance of DSCOVR’s data: “Not knowing may kill us.” He is on record as stating that sending DSCOVR to L1 is "the most important thing we could be doing in space right now."

Other scientists were so nervous about talking about the cancellation, the agreed to only speak off the record. One was even worried that the National Security Agency was recording our conversation.

That seemed a bit weird.

So in May 2006, after I had filed my piece with SEED, I sent in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to NASA for any documents “in the possession of NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Dr. Mary L. Cleave touching on or relating to the decision to cancel the mission.”

Good thing I didn’t hold my breath, I would have died of asphyxiation sometime last year. I twice narrowed the scope of the request for NASA’s benefit. I was somewhat encouraged to receive a letter of acknowledgement on May 18 telling me that my request was being processed.

Then nothing. By August I started bugging NASA by email to see what was happening. I left several voice mail messages and unanswered emails and finally got this email in late October stating:

“Dear Mr. Anderson, I want to apologize for the length of time that it has taken to respond to your request. I appreciate your modified request and your patience. I am working on your request and should have a package mailed out to you this week. I have reviewed the documents submitted to our office responsive to your request. At this time, I am asking for a quick review of the documents by our Office of the General Counsel.”

It’s important to note that federal agencies have a legal obligation to respond to FOIA requests within 20 working days. I was now up to 120 working days and getting pretty fed up, especially since the documents were apparently already collected and now held up by NASA lawyers. Then there is the small matter of the fate of the planet, but I digress…

The email assured me that the documents were going to be mailed “next week” and I was anxious to see what would be finally released. Little did I know that I facing another seven months of stonewalling.

In fact, NASA didn’t release any documents until April of 2007 – almost a year after filed my request. By then I was emailing them almost every day. And guess what? After keeping me waiting for over 250 days past their legal timeline, NASA withheld all internal documents relating to the decision to cancel DSCOVR.

What I got was 80 pages of mostly press clippings and letters from concerned scientists about the decision to cancel, all of which are available here.

After beating my head against a wall for almost a year, I still felt compelled to keep digging on this strange story. So I filed an appeal to NASA seeking release of the withheld documents. It wasn’t until July of this year that I got my answer. Again, goose eggs.

NASA’s legal department determined that among other things, it was necessary to withhold all internal documents relating to the decision to kill DSCOVR “to protect against public confusion that might result from disclosure of reasons and rationales that were not ultimately the grounds for the Agency’s actions.”

NASA also relied on a legal privilege to protect “open frank discussions on matters of policy between supervisors and superiors …”.

That seems a bit thin. The climate models the DSCOVR would help calibrate are now driving some of the most sweeping public policy decisions in the world.

After spending billions of dollars on low-Earth orbit observations, current climate models still have an energy imbalance of 4-6 watts per square meter, which is two to three times larger than the effect of atmospheric CO2. The unique data DSCOVR would beam back from 1.5 million kilometers away would help resolve those uncertainties and provide the world a much clearer view of how bad climate change really is.

Yet NASA is not only refusing to launch DSCOVR after taking over $100 million in taxpayers money for the project, they are also refusing to release any documents about the reasons for canceling the mission.

So what is NASA hiding? Are they simply embarrassed by this fiasco? Is there some incriminating email from the White House telling NASA to kill the project? What else is going on here? We are contemplating a legal challenge to pry open this cone of silence.

Next posting: The latest twist in this bizarre story.


The DSCOVR Debacle (Part 2)

Back in 1998, before he wasn’t elected president, and long before he hit the Hollywood “A List” with An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore had an interesting idea.

It was a dream actually.

Gore woke one morning remembering how powerfully he was affected by the iconic “blue marble” photo taken on December 7, 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17 on their way to the moon.

In fact, we were all affected by it. Officially known as AS17-148-22727, the quintessential photo of the Earth became the most widely distributed image in human history. Far more than a pretty picture, this beautiful shot of our fragile planet became a catalyst for both the peace and environmental movements, and a testament to the political power of an iconic image.

The problem is that humans haven’t seen that view of our planet since before the age of disco. Apollo 17 was the last mission that went to the moon and in order to see the whole planet as they did, you have to go far beyond the Earth’s orbit.

Gore’s dream was to encourage NASA to put a permanent spacecraft far beyond the moon, continuously beaming back images of our planet to help foster environmental awareness and monitor our climate. He reasoned that such a spacecraft would provide a “clearer view of our own world” and be of “tremendous science value”.

After some consideration and peer review, the scientific community agreed —but for different reasons. Even in the 1990’s the scientific community was becoming increasingly alarmed about our changing climate due to burning fossil fuels. By putting a spacecraft equipped with a radiometer at the gravitational parking spot between the Earth and the Sun 1.5 million kilometers away, scientists would for the first time be able to constantly measure the energy budget of the entire planet.

NASA thought the mission might cost around $75 million — peanuts by space standards — and started working on it for launch around 2000. Gore wanted to call it “Triana”, after the navigator on Columbus’ boat who first saw the New World. It was later renamed DSCOVR to try and jettison some of the political baggage during the reign of the Republicans.

No such luck.

In the run-up to the 2000 election, the Republican-controlled congress had a field day, calling it “Goresat” and a “multi-million dollar screen saver”. House Majority Leader Dick Armey quipped, “This idea supposedly came from a dream. Well, I once dreamed I caught a 10-foot bass. But I didn’t call up the Fish and Wildlife service and ask them to spend $30 million to make sure it happened.”

Because Republicans controlled NASA’s budget, they could do a lot more than grandstand about the mission. In 1999, the congressional science committee sent a $41.2 billion NASA budget to congress specifically prohibiting that any of it be used for work on DSCOVR. This bill included an amendment from Republican Dave Weldon (Florida) shifting money away from DSCOVR to other projects – apparently in retaliation for job cuts at Kennedy Space Center in his congressional district.

Stopping just short of a book burning, the Republicans passed another bill later that year ordering NASA to suspend all development work on DSCOVR until the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the scientific merits of the mission, and forbidding it from being launched until after the 2000 presidential election.

In March 2000, the National Academy of Sciences proved the naysayers wrong, giving the mission a glowing review both for scientific merit and cost effectiveness. However, an entire year had been wasted responding to political theatre from Republican congressmen.

Yet fate and politics again conspired against DSCOVR. Al Gore did not become president in 2001. Dick Cheney was now arguably the most powerful man in the world. The Columbia Space Shuttle was tragically lost in 2003. DSCOVR was going to be stuck on Earth a while longer.

The indignities were not over yet. In 2006, the year that NASA quietly killed the mission altogether, the Republican-controlled congress raided NASA’s budget for $568.5 million in earmarks for 198 non-peer reviewed “congressional interest items” – otherwise known as pure political pork.

Considering that over 90% of the expenses have been incurred, and several governments have offered to launch DSCOVR themselves, what possible reason could NASA have for canceling the mission?

Back in 1998 when Al Gore had his dream, it was mainly climate scientists worried about global warming. Now it is widely recognized as a full-blown global emergency. Is NASA on crack, or is something else going on here?

Next Posting: the search for answers from NASA.


The DSCOVR Debacle (Part One)

Somewhere in Maryland is metal box containing a fully completed climate spacecraft that could save the world. NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) cost over $100 million and was designed to measure the energy budget of our warming planet. Yet the spacecraft has remained in its box for the last five years and it looks like it is not going anywhere anytime soon. NASA quietly cancelled the project altogether in January 2006 citing “competing priorities”.

What happened? How could the US government possibly justify killing DSCOVR given the importance of climate change and after over 90% of the project expenses had already been incurred? What role did petty partisan politics play in this? Did the oil lobby have any influence on this decision? Over the next few months I am going to be digging into the history of DSCOVR, the reasons why it was cancelled, and why NASA refuses to release any internal documents on the decision to kill the mission.

But first, some background on why DSCOVR is so important and why it is not your average climate satellite.

In fact, DSCOVR is not a satellite at all. It was designed to be sent far beyond the orbit of Earth to a unique parking spot in space, four times as far away as the moon. This “L1 Lagrangian point” was to be DSCOVR’s home, a gravity-neutral point between our planet and the Sun. If a spacecraft is put there, it stays put, 1.5 million kilometers away tracking the exact orbit of our planet around the Sun.

From this unique vantage, the scientific instruments on DSCOVR would gaze back towards Earth, allowing us for the first time ever to measure the energy budget of the entire plant. This critical data would help calibrate climate models as well as measurements from other climate spacecraft that have collectively cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Earth’s temperature is a delicate balance between the amount of energy retained by the atmosphere and the amount being reflected back into space. This second number is called “albedo” and it is vitally important to scientists trying to develop reliable computer models on our changing climate. DSCOVR would provide vastly improved measurements of the Earth’s albedo because from L1, it would be able to continuously observe the entire sunlit disc of our planet.

Interestingly, a common complaint of climate change deniers has been that the satellite data used to develop climate models is unreliable. DSCOVR would go a long way to settling whatever honest debate remained about the reliability of those models.

Considering that these climate models are now driving enormous public policy decisions, one would think that DSCOVR would be a top priority. It certainly has been a priority of other governments. The French were so alarmed by the foot dragging by NASA they offered to send DSCOVR into space themselves at a greatly reduced cost. The Ukranian government even offered to launch DSCOVR for free aboard a Tsyklon IV rocket – the most reliable launch vehicle in the world. The response from NASA? No thanks.

Something seems rotten in the state of Maryland.

Next posting: how this mission, originally inspired by Al Gore, may have become fatally mired in beltway politics.

This was published on Desmog Blog on August 29, 2007